Welcome, fellow writer. You’re here because you have created something that you’d like to share with the world and maybe get a hard copy to strategically place on your coffee table – and maybe your mom’s coffee table. Okay, let’s be realistic – on all of the coffee tables. It’s also possible that you clicked on the wrong column and you actually wanted to read what’s on RWX or KC on YA, but it’s too late. You’re stuck here now.
The beautiful and terrible thing about self-publishing is that anyone can do it. Yes, when I say anyone I mean: any person in the world with a decent grasp of a human language and access to a device with the internet. Anyone can self-publish, but that doesn’t mean that they do it well, and that’s the trick. Self-publishing isn’t hard, but it can be stressful and time-consuming.
With self-publishing, you aren’t just a writer anymore. Now you are a designer, publisher, marketer, and many other things for your work and it will require you to think and make decisions while in those roles instead of as writer. That can be tough to do, but that is one of the terms that you will have to understand and accept if you want your work to stand out from the rest. The second of these terms is that everyone is going to have their way—most likely in list format—of doing things. This is not a list of what to do or the best way to go about self-publishing. It’s just information that I’ve gathered and placed before you in a style similar to a lavish banquet. First course on the menu: publishing models.
There are different ways to go about self-publishing, but there are four main branches: Subsidy, Vanity, Self-Publish, and Print On Demand. Really the biggest difference between the four is where your money is spent on the process of publishing and the responsibilities of the publishing house or company that helps you. You might be saying to yourself: “Wait, I just want to publish an e-book. Isn’t that what self-publishing is?” Yes and no, but hold on a little longer—self-publishing is kind of like an iceberg and we’re sitting at the top.
You pay for your work to physically become a book—the binding and printing parts—and the publishing company will help pay part of the costs for your work to be edited, marketed, and distributed. Similar to Vanity, but the writer will own the book until it’s sold and then makes money off of royalties.
You pay for all of the services to make your work into something physical, but you own the book and the all of the profit when the book sells, instead of receiving royalties. However, you will not receive any help with editing or promotional services. This type reminds me of a mercenary—they’ll take any job as long as you have the money to pay for their services, but that’s it.
Print On Demand
You pay for a publishing company to produce a printed copy of your book to fulfill a specific order. You’re not paying for the company to warehouse any “unsold” copies of your work so it’s a lot more cost-effective. You can pay extra to have help with editing, promoting, and all that other jazz, and you make money off of royalties.
You pay for the production, marketing, and distribution/warehousing of your book—so basically everything. While this puts all of the cost on you, it also gives you the most control over your book because you control when the book is published and what format it’s in. You also keep all of the rights and all of the profits, but you also are doing all of the work so it’s only fair.
Most of us are going to want to take the Self-Publishing route, but it isn’t a bad idea to understand the other types and make sure that self-publishing is the best fit for you. There are plenty of companies that are willing to help edit, design, and promote your work, but be careful that you don’t end up paying for things you don’t need. Since the desire to self-publish has risen so have the endless companies that are there to “help you” and it might take some research to know which one might be the best equipped for your needs. Don’t forget there is always traditional publishing too—it’s just off in a dark corner somewhere pouting.
Next course in our banquet: Formats and Publishing Platforms!